Monthly Archives: September 2014

Women in the Art World

EllenHeck_LetterpressAndTheLight

Recently, I’ve noticed several articles about women in the art world circling and resurfacing on the internet. Rachel Stephens, one of the gallery directors at Wally Workman, where I will have a solo show in November, just commented on this series of interviews from artnet published last Tuesday. Wally Workman Gallery was established in 1980 and is woman-owned and directed. An outlier statistically, 67% of the gallery artists are women.

Also this week, I heard from Erin Holscher Almazan, who has curated a two-woman show featuring my work and figurative prints from Carrie Lingscheit which will be open at Gallery 249 in Dayton, Ohio through October 18. She will be meeting a colleague’s “Art and Feminism” class in the gallery for a discussion of the work and asked that I answer a few questions. Since the request and format were so similar to the artnet piece, I thought I would share my thoughts here as well.

What is the significance and relevance of women’s experiences within a patriarchal art world (woman as subject and image maker; domestic space; children) in your work?

I am definitely aware of feminist critiques of the art world (specifically, what I would consider the top 1% of the art world about which so much is published). Many statistics have illustrated the underrepresentation of women as heads of museums and the subjects of solo museum shows, and financially, have shown that the work of women has not approached the highest limits at auction sales. I support the efforts of the people taking action to make the high-end art world a more equal playing field. I think it should be. However, at the moment, I do not live in that world and neither does my work. I am inclined to think that the affordable art world (and prints, even by well-known artists, are often relatively affordable) is a more egalitarian place in every way.

I think that the two most important things for an artist to have are 1) a clear voice and message and 2) the ability to find the audience for that message. It also matters whether or not one needs to be able to make money from one’s art to continue making it. If the answer is yes, then it is even more important that 1 and 2 align. Happily, there is far more to the art world than just the most exclusive New York galleries or auctions by Sotheby’s (though it is still fun to read about them and ogle both the art and the price tags). People appreciate art of many different genres in many different venues. In this larger art world, I am constantly trying to find, maintain, and grow the connection between my voice and the people who respond to it.

Women have consistently been a subject of my work for the last six years. I think there are two main reasons for this: 1) The overall focus of my work is the study of identity. My print projects often deal with this theme, and because I am female, this is a huge part of my own identity and something I wish to explore. 2) I grew up in a family of all sisters. They say that writers should write what they know, and well, I know what it is like to grow up as a girl, and have witnessed closely other girls growing up as girls. With most of the figurative and narrative prints, I am telling stories and showing emotions that I have seen and felt myself.

Does there seem to be a renewed interest in printmaking fueled by women printmakers?

I do know that there are a lot of women printmakers. The majority of the artists in residence at Kala (the facility in which I work) are women. I also think that there is a flourishing interest in printmaking at the moment, so it follows that women are a big part of that flourishing. But from my point of view, this has not been so much a gendered renaissance as a celebration of print in a community that is, in my experience, a very sharing, open, and supportive group of people. I love printmakers. And I have found that printmakers who are men are often of this same ilk. I like that printmakers often operate in groups and collectives, even while working on solitary projects. This environment is conducive to impromptu critiques and shared experimentation with new materials or techniques. There is often a lot of community feeling in a printshop.

EllenHeck_SinisterMoonCrit